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1
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 9
« on: February 17, 2019, 07:12:30 pm »
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They wandered red-eyed, exchanging moon-pale landscapes for sun-bright, and Cnaiur fell to reckoning the oddities of his soul.  He supposed he was insane, though the more he pondered the word, the more uncertain its meaning became.  On several occasions he had presided over the ritual throat-cutting of Utemot pronounced insane by the tribal elders.  According to the memorialists, men went feral in the manner of dogs and horses, and in like manner had to be put down.  The Inrithi, he knew, thought insanity the work of  demons.

One night during the infancy of the Holy War - and for reasons that Cnaiur could no longer recall - the sorceror had taken a crude parchment map if the Three Seas and pressed it flat over a copper laver filled with water.  he had poked holes of varying sizes throughout the parchment, and when he held his oil lantern high to complement the firelight, little beads of water glinted across the tanned landscape.  Each man, he explained, was a kind of hole in existence, a point where the Outside penetrated the world.  He tapped one of the beads with his finger.  It broke, staining the surrounding parchment.  When the trials of the world broke men, he explained, the Outside leaked into the world.
This he said was madness.

At the time, Cnaiur had been less than impressed.  He had despised the sorceror, thinking him one of those mewling souls who forever groaned beneath burdens of their own manufacture.  He had dismissed all things him out if hand.  But now, the force of his demonstration seemed indisputable.  Something other inhabited him.
It was peculiar.  Sometimes it seemed that each of his eyes answered to a different master, that his every look involved war and loss.  Sometimes it seemed he possessed two faces, an honest outer expression, which  he sunned beneath the open sky, and a more devious inner countenance.  If he concentrated, he could almost feel its muscles - deep, twitching webs of them - beneath the musculature that stretched his skin.  But is was elusive, like the presentiment of hate in a brother's glance.  And it was profound, sealed like marrow within living bone.  There was no distance!  No way to frame it within his comprehension.  And how could there be?  When it thought, he was...
The bead had been broken - there could be no doubt of that.  According to the sorceror, madness all came down to the question of origins.  If the divine possessed him, he would be some kind of visionary or prophet.  If the demonic...

The sorceror's demonstration seemed indisputable.  It accorded with his nagging intuitions.  It explained, among other things, the strange affinities between madness and insight - why the soothsayers of one age could be the bedlamites of another.  The problem, of course was the Dunyain.
He contradicted all of it.
Cnaiur had watched him ply the roots of man after man and thus command their branching action.  Nursing their hatred.  Cultivating their shame and their conceit.  Nurturing their love.  Herding their reasons, breeding their beliefs!  And all with nothing more than mundane word and expression - nothing more than worldly things.
The Dunyain, Cnaiur realised, acted as though there were no holes in the sorceror's parchment map, no beads to signify souls, no water to mark the Outside.  He assumed a world where the branching actions of one man could become the roots of another.  And with this elementary assumption he had conquered the acts of thousands.
He has conquered the Holy War.

The insight sent Cnaiur reeling, for it suddenly seemed that he rode through two different worlds, one open, where the roots of men anchored them to something beyond, and another closed, where those selfsame roots were entirely contained.  What would it mean to be mad in such a closed world?  But such a world could not be!  Ingrown and insensate.  Cold and soulless.
There had to be more.

Besides, he couldn't be mad, he decided, because he possessed no origins.  He had kicked free of all earth.  He didn't even possess a past.  Not really.  What he remembered, he always remembered now.  He - Cnaiur urs Skiotha - was the ground of what came before.  He was his own foundation!
Laughing, he thought of the Dunyain and how, upon their fatal reunion, this would overthrow him.

He tried - once - to share these ruminations with Serwe and the others, but they could offer him only the simulacrum of understanding.  How could they fathom his depths when they themselves possessed none?  They were not bottomless holes in the world, as he was.  They were animate, yet they did not live, not truly.  They, he realised with no little horror, had no souls.  They dwelt utterly within the world.
And for no reason, his love of them - his love of her - became all the more fierce.

Cnaiur's chapter's are always engaging and well worth quoting - and there's always lots to quote.
This seems to imply that he might be possessed, and the reference to the 'great horned shadow around around him' from the Conphas paragraphs, tells those who have read TAE who it might be.  I don't think this can be inferred from anything in PON to date, but seems to be clear foreshadowing of future events.

Also, clear pointers to the fact that the Dunyain are
(click to show/hide)
  again foreshadowing TAE.

Are the skin-spies therefore, an analogy for what humanity would become in a closed world, animate, but not truly living?

This also suggests Cnaiur has become a self-moving soul.  Therefore Moenghus and Kellhus have inadvertently achieved the Dunyain mission without realising it - how ironic.

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The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 9
« on: February 17, 2019, 07:01:28 pm »
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Men were like this, Cnaiur realised, binding their manifold roots then branching in a thousand different directions, twining into the greater canopy of other men.  But these things - these skin-spies - were something altogether different, though they could mimic men well enough.  They did not bleed into their surroundings as men did.  They struck through circumstances, rather than reaching out to claim them.  They were spears concealed in the thickets of human activity.  Thorns...
Tusks.
And this leant them  curious beauty, a dread elegance.  They were simple in the way of knives, these skin-spies.  He envied them that, even as he loved and pitied.

What is the Tusk reference implying? It's very obviously a deliberate analogy.

3
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 9
« on: February 17, 2019, 06:58:56 pm »
And this one Scylvendi, this Utemot Chieftain.  Conphas had witnessed it, as much as any of the Columnaries who'd quailed before him in Joktha.  In the firelight the barbarian's eyes had been coals set in his skull.  And the blood had painted him the colour of his true skin.  The swatting arms, the roaring voice, the chest-pounding declarations.  They had all seen the God.  They had all seen dread Gilgaol rearing about him, a great horned shadow...
And now, after wrestling to the ground like some lunatic bull, after the wonder of capturing him - capturing War! - he had simply vanished

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All this time Conphas had assumed that he and his uncle had stood at the root of all that happened.  No matter how the others plotted, they but thrashed in the nets of his hidden designs - or so he thought. Such errant conceit!  All along, others had known, others had watched, and he hadn't the slightest inkling of their intentions!

Tricked, deceived and deluded - a different horned God, perhaps?

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"Did you know that?  Did you know stood in the the Emperor's presence?"  He raised his wine bowl in salute, took a deep drink.  "Ikurei Conphas I," he gasped after swallowing.  "With me the Empire is reborn, Scylvendi.  I am Kyraneas.  I am Cenei.  Soon all the Three Seas will kiss my knee!"
The Empire will be reborn.  But not with you, Conphas

4
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 8
« on: February 17, 2019, 06:45:05 pm »
The miracle was that he still loved, that he still recognised mercy, pity...

and by inference is different to the other Mandate sorcerors.  This has been told us by Akka before, but Esmi is 'confirming' it for us. 

5
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 9
« on: February 17, 2019, 03:34:07 pm »
Cnaiur awakens to memories of carvings in Shigek, showing an ancient Scylvendi kissing the
heel of an outland king.
Conphas is giving it the full Bond villain, but Cnaiur doesn't recognise him.
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The man smiled.  "I know you aren't human.  I know that we're kin."...
..."Are you," Cnaiur rasped, "a god?"...
..."I know you love me... Men often beat those they love. Words fail them , and they throw their fists into the breach"...

..."I know also," the man continued, "that you hate him"
Him.  There could be no mistaking the word's intensity.  The Dunyain.  He spoke of the Dunyain - and as though he were his enemy, no less.  "You do not want," Cnaiur said, "to raise arms against him..."
"And why would that be?"
Cnaiur turned to him, blinking.  "He knows the hearts of men.  He seizes their beginnings and so wields their ends."
"So even you," the nameless General spat, "even you have succumbed to the general madness.  Religion...  He turned from the table, poured himself something Cnaiur couldn't see from the ground.  "You know, Scylvendi, I thought I'd found a peer in you."  His laugh was vicious.  "I even toyed with the idea of making you my Exalt-General."
Cnaiur scowled.  Who was this man?
"Absurd, I know.  Utterly impossible.  The Army would mutiny.  The mob would storm the Andiamine Heights!  But I cannot help but think that, with someone such as you, I could eclipse even Triamis."
Dawning horror.
"Did you know that?  Did you know stood in the the Emperor's presence?"  He raised his wine bowl in salute, took a deep drink.  "Ikurei Conphas I," he gasped after swallowing.  "With me the Empire is reborn, Scylvendi.  I am Kyraneas.  I am Cenei.  Soon all the Three Seas will kiss my knee!"
Blood and grimaces.  Roaring shouts.  Fire.  It all came back to him, the horror and rapture of Joktha.  And then there he was... Conphas.  A god with a beaten face.
Cnaiur laughed, deep and full-throated.
For moment the man stood dumbstruck, as though suddenly forced to reckon the dimensions of an unguessed incapacity.  "You play me," he said with what seemed genuine bafflement.  "Mock me".
And Cnaiur understood that he'd been sincere, that Conphas had meant every word he said.  Of course he was baffled.  He had recognised his brother; how could his brother not recognise him in turn?
The Chieftain of the Utemot laughed harder.  "Brother? You heart is shrill and your soul is plain.  Your claims are preposterous, uttered without any real understanding, like recitations of a mother's daft pride."  Cnaiur spat pink.  "Peer? Brother? You have note the iron to be my brother.  You are a thing of sand.  Soon you will be kicked to the wind".

Conphas kicks him unconscious and leaves.
'General Sompas' enters and frees Cnaiur.  They walk out of the camp without being challenged once.

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A word dogged Emperor Ikurei Conphas, a word he had always regarded from the outside.
Terror...
...What was it about this man - this fiend?  How had he affected him so?  For all the hatred the Nansur bore towards the Scylvendi race, they were perversely enamoured of them as well.  There was a mystique to them, and a virility that transcended the myriad rules that so constricted the intercourse of civilised men.  Where the Nansur wheedled and negotiated, the Scylvendi simply took - seized.  It was as though they had embraced violence whole, while the Nansur had shattered it into a thousand pieces to set as splinters across the multiform mosaic of their society.
It made them seem.. more manly.
And this one Scylvendi, this Utemot Chieftain.  Conphas had witnessed it, as much as any of the Columnaries who'd quailed before him in Joktha.  In the firelight the barbarian's eyes had been coals set in his skull.  And the blood had painted him the colour of his true skin.  The swatting arms, the roaring voice, the chest-pounding declarations.  They had all seen the God.  They had all seen dread Gilgaol rearing about him, a great horned shadow...
And now, after wrestling to the ground like some lunatic bull, after the wonder of capturing him - capturing War! - he had simply vanished

There is no sorcery involved - could it be the skin-spies?
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They weren't Cishaurim, but did that make them Consult as the Mandati had insisted?  Were these truly the opening hours of the Second Apocalypse?
Terror.  How could he not be terrified?
All this time Conphas had assumed that he and his uncle had stood at the root of all that happened.  No matter how the others plotted, they but thrashed in the nets of his hidden designs - or so he thought. Such errant conceit!  All along, others had known, others had watched, and he hadn't the slightest inkling of their intentions!
What was happening?  Who ruled these events?
Not Emperor Ikurei Conphas I...
...Were he one, were he alone, it would be hopeless.
But he was not one.  He was many. The ability to cede voice and limb to the will of another - herein lay the true genius of men.  The ability to kneel.  With such power, Conphas realised, he was no longer confined to the here and now.  With such power, he could reach across the world's very curve!  He was Emperor.
How could not cackle?  Such a wondrous life he lived!
He need only make things simple...

Cnaiur flees through the night with the skin-spies.  One of them is Serwe, one of them is Moenghus, or Kellhus?
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"I'm forgetting something," he said.
She nodded and smiled the blithe and jubilant way she always did when she knew some answer.
"The one you hunt," she said.  "The murderer."
He felt his face darken.  "But I am the murderer!  The most violent of all men!  They slouch forward in chains.  They ape their fathers, just as their fathers aped their fathers before them, all the way back to the beginning.  Covenants of earth.  Covenants of blood.  I stood and found my chains were smoke.  I turned and saw the void... I am unfettered!"

They question him, try to prompt him to tell them what he knows about Kellhus.
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"Tell me... what do you see?"
"The one", Cnaiur grated "that I hunt."
"Yes," Serwe said from behind him.  "The murderer!"
"He murdered my father with words!  Consumed my heart with revelation!"
"Yes..."
"He set me free".

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...They called themselves the Last Children of the Inchoroi, though they were loath to speak of their "Old Fathers".  They claimed to be Keepers of the Inverse Fire, though the merest question regarding either their 'keeping' or their 'fire' pitched them into confusion...
...They carried, Cnaiur could see, the spark of the void within them.  Like the Sranc...

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Men were like this, Cnaiur realised, binding their manifold roots then branching in a thousand different directions, twining into the greater canopy of other men.  But these things - these skin-spies - were something altogether different, though they could mimic men well enough.  They did not bleed into their surroundings as men did.  They struck through circumstances, rather than reaching out to claim them.  They were spears concealed in the thickets of human activity.  Thorns...
Tusks.
And this leant them  curious beauty, a dread elegance.  They were simple in the way of knives, these skin-spies.  He envied them that, even as he loved and pitied.

Quote
They wandered red-eyed, exchanging moon-pale landscapes for sun-bright, and Cnaiur fell to reckoning the oddities of his soul.  He supposed he was insane, though the more he pondered the word, the more uncertain its meaning became.  On several occasions he had presided over the ritual throat-cutting of Utemot pronounced insane by the tribal elders.  According to the memorialists, men went feral in the manner of dogs and horses, and in like manner had to be put down.  The Inrithi, he knew, thought insanity the work of  demons.

One night during the infancy of the Holy War - and for reasons that Cnaiur could no longer recall - the sorceror had taken a crude parchment map if the Three Seas and pressed it flat over a copper laver filled with water.  he had poked holes of varying sizes throughout the parchment, and when he held his oil lantern high to complement the firelight, little beads of water glinted across the tanned landscape.  Each man, he explained, was a kind of hole in existence, a point where the Outside penetrated the world.  He tapped one of the beads with his finger.  It broke, staining the surrounding parchment.  When the trials of the world broke men, he explained, the Outside leaked into the world.
This he said was madness.

At the time, Cnaiur had been less than impressed.  He had despised the sorceror, thinking him one of those mewling souls who forever groaned beneath burdens of their own manufacture.  He had dismissed all things him out if hand.  But now, the force of his demonstration seemed indisputable.  Something other inhabited him.
It was peculiar.  Sometimes it seemed that each of his eyes answered to a different master, that his every look involved war and loss.  Sometimes it seemed he possessed two faces, an honest outer expression, which  he sunned beneath the open sky, and a more devious inner countenance.  If he concentrated, he could almost feel its muscles - deep, twitching webs of them - beneath the musculature that stretched his skin.  But is was elusive, like the presentiment of hate in a brother's glance.  And it was profound, sealed like marrow within living bone.  There was no distance!  No way to frame it within his comprehension.  And how could there be?  When it thought, he was...
The bead had been broken - there could be no doubt of that.  According to the sorceror, madness all came down to the question of origins.  If the divine possessed him, he would be some kind of visionary or prophet.  If the demonic...

The sorceror's demonstration seemed indisputable.  It accorded with his nagging intuitions.  It explained, among other things, the strange affinities between madness and insight - why the soothsayers of one age could be the bedlamites of another.  The problem, of course was the Dunyain.
He contradicted all of it.
Cnaiur had watched him ply the roots of man after man and thus command their branching action.  Nursing their hatred.  Cultivating their shame and their conceit.  Nurturing their love.  Herding their reasons, breeding their beliefs!  And all with nothing more than mundane word and expression - nothing more than worldly things.
The Dunyain, Cnaiur realised, acted as though there were no holes in the sorceror's parchment map, no beads to signify souls, no water to mark the Outside.  He assumed a world where the branching actions of one man could become the roots of another.  And with this elementary assumption he had conquered the acts of thousands.
He has conquered the Holy War.

The insight sent Cnaiur reeling, for it suddenly seemed that he rode through two different worlds, one open, where the roots of men anchored them to something beyond, and another closed, where those selfsame roots were entirely contained.  What would it mean to be mad in such a closed world?  But such a world could not be!  Ingrown and insensate.  Cold and soulless.
There had to be more.

Besides, he couldn't be mad, he decided, because he possessed no origins.  He had kicked free of all earth.  He didn't even possess a past.  Not really.  What he remembered, he always remembered now.  He - Cnaiur urs Skiotha - was the ground of what came before.  He was his own foundation!
Laughing, he thought of the Dunyain and how, upon their fatal reunion, this would overthrow him.

He tried - once - to share these ruminations with Serwe and the others, but they could offer him only the simulacrum of understanding.  How could they fathom his depths when they themselves possessed none?  They were not bottomless holes in the world, as he was.  They were animate, yet they did not live, not truly.  They, he realised with no little horror, had no souls.  They dwelt utterly within the world.
And for no reason, his love of them - his love of her - became all the more fierce.

The Kidruhil attack.  They are driven off, but Serwe is killed.
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"We must bury her", he called.
Serwe helped him.

6
The Almanac: PON Edition / ARC: TTT Chapter 10
« on: February 17, 2019, 12:55:38 pm »
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Souls can no more see the origins of their thoughts than they can see the backs of their heads or the insides of their entrails.  And since souls cannot differentiate what they cannot see, there is a peculiar sense in which the soul cannot self-differentiate.  So it is always, in a peculiar sense, the same time time when they think, the same place where they think, and the same individual who does the thinking.  Like tipping a spiral on its side until only a circle can be seen, the passage of moments always remains now, the carnival of spaces always sojourns here, and the succession of people always becomes me. The truth is, if the soul could apprehend itself the way it apprehended the world - if it could apprehend its origins - it would see that there is no now, there is no here, and there is no me.  In other words, it would realise that just as there is no circle, there is no soul.
- MEMGOWA, CELESTIAL APHORISMS

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You are fallen from Him like sparks from the flame.  A dark wind blows, and you are soon to flicker out.
- SONGS 6:33, THE CHRONICLE OF THE TUSK

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The Almanac: PON Edition / ARC: TTT Chapter 9
« on: February 17, 2019, 12:49:35 pm »
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In the skins of elk I pas over grasses.  Rain falls, and I cleanse my face in the sky.  I hear the Horse Prayers spoken, but lips are far away.  I slip down weed and still twig - into their palms I pool.  Then I am called out and am among them.  In Sorrow, I rejoice.
Pale endless life. This, I call my own
- ANONYMOUS, THE NONMAN CANTICLES

8
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 8
« on: February 13, 2019, 09:10:56 pm »
The Holy War is converging on Gerotha, the capital of Xerash.  The city agrees to surrender, but then there is a coup and the Fanim loyalists take over.  A veteran called Hebarata comes out to harangue Kellhus.
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...Then at the end of the tirade someone fired a crossbow bolt...
The Warrior-Prophet snatched it from the air just short of his neck.  To the wonder of all, he raised the missile aloft.  "Hear this, Hebarata,"  he cried.  "From this day I count!"  A cryptic statement that troubled even the Inrithi.
What is he counting?

Athjeari ranges further eastwards on a 'Pilgrimage' from holy place to holy place.

Esmenet begins reading The Sagas, to the sound of Kianene music.
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She still thought of reading as "practice", though she'd found it quite effortless for some time now.  In fact, she not only hungered for opportunities to read, she often found herself simply staring at her humble collection of scrolls and codices, suffused with the same miserly feelings she harboured toward her cosmetic chest.  But where the paints merely balmed the fears of her former self, the writings were something altogether different - something transformative rather than recuperative.  It was as though the inked characters had become rungs on a ladder, or an endlessly uncoiling rope, something that allowed her to climb over higher, to see ever more.
"You've learned the lesson," Kellhus had said on one of those rare mornings when he shared her breakfast.
"What lesson might that be?"
"That the lessons never end."  He laughed, gingerly sipped his steaming tea.  "That ignorance is infinite".
"How," she asked, at once earnest and delighted, "can anyone presume to be certain?"
Kellhus smiled in the devilish way she so adored.
"They think they know me," he said.

Her old self is a stranger to her.  Kellhus...
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...had rewritten the world down to this very foundations.  A world where all were slaves of repetition, of the twin darknesses of custom and appetite.  A world where beliefs serve the powerful instead of the true.  The old Esmenet would be astounded, even outraged.  But she would come to believe - eventually.
The world indeed held miracles, though only for those who dared abandon old hopes.

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Like The Third Analytic, The Sagas were one of those works familiar even to illiterate caste-menials such as herself.  She found it strange recalling her impressions of such things before Achamian or Kellhus.  The "Ancient North,"  she knew, had always seemed weighty and profound, a phrase with a palpable, skin-prickling air.  It lay like cold lead among the other names she knew, a marker of loss, hubris, and the implacable judgement of ages.  She knew of the No-God, the Apocalypse, the Ordeal, but they were little more than curiosities.  The Ancient North was a place, something she could point to.  And for whatever reason, everyone had agreed that it was one of those words, enunciations that, like "Scylvendi" or "Tusk", bore the whiff of overarching doom.  The Sagas had been little more than a rumour attached to that word.  Books to be certain, were frightful things, but in the way of snakes to city dwellers.  Something safely ignored.

Achamian and the Mandate disparage The Sagas.  They are like 'pearls strung across a corpse
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...With Achamian, the "Ancient North", which for all its dread had remained blank and obdurate, became something intricate and encompassing, a frame for what seemed an inexhaustible litany of extinguished hopes.  By comparison, The Sagas had come to seem something foolish, perhaps even criminal...

The Sagas are nine in total, with more than one author.  Some are verse, some are prose.
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Once again she'd found complexity where she expected simplicity.  Was that not always the way?

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...Both the style of the script and the diction and tone of the translator's dedicatory seemed bent to the sensibilities of some other kind of reader.  For the first time she found herself appreciating the fact that this history was itself historical.  For some reason she had never considered that writings could part of what they were about.  They always seemed to hang... outside the world they depicted.

The Kelmariad tells the story of Achamian's dreams and of Kellhus' blood.
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...These times and places, she realised, were neither so ancient nor so faraway as she might have wished.

The history of the Ancient North and the Apocalypse is set out.  Celmomas has a still born twin who 'everstalked his brother's side, chilling his heart even as he quickened his intellect'.

She reads for four days.

Seswatha keeps popping up.  He is the stalwart of a mighty king, a teacher and surrogate father, a powerful and resented voice in council, a shining beacon, a scheming foreigner, hope incarnate, a lunatic refugee, and the saviour of the world.  The true hero of The Sagas.
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...And each time Esmenet encountered some variant of his name, she would clutch her breast and think, Achamian.
It was no small thing to read of war, let alone apocalypse.  No matter how pressing her daily routine, images from The Sagas dogged her soul's eye: Sranc armoured in mandible freshly cut from their victims.  The burning Library of Sauglish and the thousands who'd sought refuge within her hallowed halls.  The Wall of the Dead, the cloak of corpses draped about the seaward ramparts of Dagliash.  Foul Golgotterath, her golden horns curving mountainous into dark skies.  And the No-God, Tsurumah, great winding tower of black wind...
War and more war, enough to engulf every city, every hearth, to sweep up all innocents - even the unborn - into its merciless jaws.
The though that Achamian continually lived these things oppresed her with an evasive, even cringing, sense of guilt.  Each night, he saw the horizon move with hordes of Sranc; he shrank beneath the pitch of dragons swooping from black-bellied clouds.  Each night, he witnessed Tryse, the Holy Mother of Cities, washed in the the blood of her bewildered children.  Each night, he literally relived the No-God's dread awakening, he actually heard tehmothers wail over their stillborn sons.
Absurdly, this made her think of his dead mule, Daybreak.  She had never understood, not truly, how much weight that name must have possessed for him. Such poignant hope.  And this, she realised with no little horror, meant that she;d never understood Achamian himself - not truly.  To be used night after night.  To be debased by hungers vast, ancient, and rutting.  How could a whore fail to see the outrage that had been heaped upon his soul?
You are my morning, Esmi... my dawn light
What could it mean?  For a man who lived and relived the ruin of all, what could it mean to awake to her touch, to her face? Where had he found the courage?  The trust?
I was his morning.
Esmenet felt it then, overpowering her, and in the strange fashion of moving souls, she struggled to ward it away.  But it was too late.  For what seemed the first time, she understood: his pointless urgency, his desperation to be believed, his haggard love, his short-winded compassion - shadows of the Apocalyse, all. To witness the dissolution of nations, to be stripped night after night of everything cherished, everything fair.  The miracle was that he still loved, that he still recognised mercy, pity... How could she not think him strong?
She understood, and it terrified her, for it was a thing too near love.

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She could see it all clearly now.  The derelict cities.  The smoking temples.  The strings of dead that marked the slave roads to Golgotterath.  She followed the Nonmen Erratics as they rode across the countryside hunting survivors.  She saw the Sranc digging up the stillborn and burning them on raised pyres.  She watched it all from afar, more than two thousand years too late.
Never had she read anything so dark, so despairing, or so glorious.  It seemed poison had been poured into wonder's own decanter.  This, she thought time and again, is his night...
And though she tried to beat the words from her heart, they rose nonetheless, as colds as accusatory truth, as relentless as earned affliction.  I was his morning

A strange scene where she watches Akka sitting by the side of a river, and then Kellhus is putting his hands over her.  Akka weeps.
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The horror in Achamian's eyes.
Who was that base and treacherous woman?  For Esmenet knew she could never do such a thing.  She simply wasn't capable.  Not to Akka.  Not him!
Then she recalled her daughter, somewhere out there across the seas.  Sold into slavery.

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She wept and she whispered, "Akka".  For she was his world, and all lay in ruin.

Achamian dreams.  He is with Nau-Cayuti.
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Lying prone, they stared over the lip of an upturned ledge, across what could only be a mighty chasm.  Entire chasm.  Entire mountains seemed to hang about them, cliff from towering cliff, plummet from plummet, dropping down into blackness, reaching up to pinch a great curved plane of gold.  It loomed above them, impossibly immense, wrought with never-ending string of text and panels, each as broad as a war galley's sail, engraved with alien figures warring in relief.  The lights from below cast a gleaming filigree across its expanse.
They looked upon the dread Ark itself, Sesawtha knew, rammed deep into the sockets of the earth.  They had reached the deepest pits of Golgotterath.

He wakes.  Esmi has come to him.  She tells him he is strong, then flees.

The Synthese soars above.  Cnaiur has told it of the Dunyain.
Quote
Golgotterath would not be pleased with this new disposition of pieces.  But the rules had changed.
There were those who preferred clarity.

9
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 7
« on: February 10, 2019, 03:18:55 pm »
In Joktha, Cnaiur dines with the Nansur generals.  He asks Conphas about Kiyuth.  The response from Conphas and his staff seems to be one of mockery.  Cnaiur has them all leave, except Conphas.

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"Repose," Cnaiur snorted.  "That is because the world is your trophy room.  Your soul makes flattery of all things - even me.  You make mirrors of all that you see"...
...Cnaiur struck, cuffed him so hard he toppled backward.
"You act as though you live this life a second time!"  Cnaiur leapt into a crouch upon the table, sent plates and bowls spinning.  Eyes as round as silver talents, Conphas scrambled backwards through the cushions.  "As though you were assured of its outcome!"
Conphas had turned, was fighting his way clear of the depression.  "Somp-Somp-!"  Cnaiur vaulted across the table, hammered the back of his head.  The Exalt-General went down.  Cnaiur unfastened his belt, snapped it free.  He yanked it about the sobbing man's neck, hoisted him to his knees.  He wrenched him back to the table, threw him onto his chest.  he smashed his face against its own reflection - once, twice...
He looked up, saw the slaves cringing in the shadows, their arms upraised.  One of them wept.
"I am a demon!" he cried.  "A demon!"
Then he turned back to Conphas shuddering on the table beneath him.
Some things required literal explanation.

Cnaiur wakes at sunrise.  Blood and soil (shit?)  are smeared across his thighs.  Nansur ships are in the harbour.  The fleet has arrived too soon.
The Nansur Generals know what Cnaiur did - but he does not.
The ships are empty.
Conphas is nowhere to be found.  He has escaped through a tunnel.
The Nansur reinforcements have disembarked further north.

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"You were supposed to kill him," Sanumnis said.  "You were supposed to kill Conphas."
Weeper!  Faggot weeper!
Cnaiur frowned.  "I am not an assassin," he said.

The Saik are hidden on the ships.

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He strode to the wall's inner brink, held out his arms in grand address.  "Listen to me.  I will not lie to you.  The Nansur can afford no quarter, because they can afford no Truth!  We all die this night!"
He let these words ring into silence.
"I know nothing of you Afterlife.  I know nothing of your Gods or their greed for glory.  But I do know this: In days to come, widows shall curse me as they weep!  Fields shall go to seed!  Sons and daughters shall be sold into slavery!  Fathers shall die desolates, knowing their line is extinct! This night, I shall carve my mark into the Nansurium, and thousands shall cry out for want of my mercy!"
And the spark became flame.
"Scylvendi!" they roared.  "Scylvendi!"

Cnaiur has his men knock down hundreds of walls to create a labyrinth, and then they all lie in wait.
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This was not, Cnaiur realised, what the Dunyain woudl do.
Either Kellhus would find a way - some elaborate or insidious track - that led to the domination of thee circumstances, or he would flee.  Was that not what had happened at Caraskand? Had he not walked a path of miracles to prevail?  Not only had he united the warring factions within the Holy War, he had given them the means to war without.
No such path existed here - at least none that Cnaiur could fathom.
So why not flee?  Why cast his lot with doomed men?  For honour?  There was no such thing.  For friendship?  He was the enemy of all.  Certainly there were truces, the coming together of coincidental interests, but nothing else, nothing meaningful.
Kellhus had taught him that.
He cackled aloud when the revelation struck, and for a moment the world itself wobbled.  A sense of power suffused him, so intense it seemed something other might snap from his frame, that throwing out his arms he could shear Joktha's walls from their foundations, cast them to the horizon.  No reason bound him.  Nothing.  No scruple, no instinct, no habit, no calculation, no hate... He stood beyond origin or outcome.  He stood nowhere.
"The men wonder," Troyatti said cautiously, "what amuses you, Lord."
Cnaiur grinned.  "That I once cared for my life."

The Nansur invade Joktha.
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Cnaiur had not the arms for the swazond he earned that night.

Eventually only Cnaiur and a nameless Thunyeri are left standing.  He is overwhelmed and taken.  Conphas comes to gloat.
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Afterward, they cleared a path for their all-conquering Exalt-General.  Smoke towered into the firmament beyond the battered beauty of his face, shrouding stars.  His eyes were the same, though they appeared unnerved - very unnerved.  "No different," his broken lips spat.  "No different than Xunnurit after all".
And as the darkness came swirling down, Cnaiur at last understood.  The Dunyain had not sent him to be Conphas' assassin...
He had sent him to be his victim.

10
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 6
« on: February 08, 2019, 08:04:19 pm »
Akka tells Esmi about the Cants of Compulsion.
Quote
..."Zin lost more than his eyes in Iothiah"...
..."Souls compelled", he continued, "are souls possessed"...
..."They used him against me"...
..."The great paradox of the Compulsions is that their victims in no way feel compelled.  Zin sincerely meant everything he said to me, he chose to say them, even though others spoke the words"...
..."He said that pity was the only love I could hope for"...
...Of all the world, only she truly understood.  Of all the world.
Longing crashed about the pilings of his resolution - to crush her in his arms, to press her back tenderly then kiss the faint saddle of freckles across her nose...
..."H-he said things," Achamian continued, coughing against a voice-cracking ache.  "He said things without hope of forgiveness.  Now he can't bring himself to stop."...
...Blinking, Achamian looked to the sky, saw the Round of Horns glittering in an arc over the northern hills.  It was an ancient Kuniuric constellation, unknown to the astrologers of the Three Seas.  "Think of the soul as a network of innumerable rivers.  With the Cants of Compulsion, the old banks are swamped, dikes are washed away, new channels are cut... Sometimes when the floodwaters recede, things resume their old course.  Sometimes they don't".

Is the Round of Horns actually there in the sky above Xerash, or is Akka seeing with Seswatha's eyes?
What would a third inutteral do to the Cants of Compulsion (we later find out what it can do to the Cants of Calling)?

11
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 5
« on: February 08, 2019, 07:59:57 pm »
Cnaiur is speaking with the Synthese.
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So what was this thing?  He had struck bargains with it.  Exchanged promises.
  What bargains and promises?

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"I eclipse you, mortal!" it replied with bird-vehemence.  "I am son of a more violent race.  You cannot conceive the compass of my life!"
Cnaiur turned his profile to it, glanced at it sidelong.  "Why?  The blood that pulses through my veins is no less ancient.  Nor are the movements of my soul.  You are not so old as the Truth".
He could fairly hear the creature's sneer.
"You still do not understand them," Cnaiur continued.  "Before all, the Dunyain are intellect.  I do not know their ends, but I do know this: they make instruments of all things, and they do so with a way beyond the ken of me or even you, Demon".
"You think I underestimate them".
Cnaiur turned his back to the sea.  "It is inevitable," he said, shrugging.  "we are little more than children to them, imbeciles drawn from the womb. Think on it. Bird.  Moenghus has dwelt among the Kianene for thirty years.  I know not your power, but I do know this: he lies far beyond it."
Moenghus... Simply speaking the name cramped his heart.
"As you say, Scylvendi, you know not my power."
Cnaoir cursed and laughed.  "Would you like to know what a Dunyain would hear in your words?"
"And what might that be?"
"Posturing.  Vanity.  Weaknesses that betray you measure and offer innumerable lines of assault.  A Dunyain would grant you your declarations.  He would encourage you in your confidence.  In all things, he would dispense flattering appearances.  He would care nothing whether you thought him your lesser, your slave, so long as you remained ignorant"...
..."Ignorant?  Ignorant of what?"
Cnaiur spat.  "Your true circumstances."
"And what are my true circumstances, Scylvendi?"
"That you are  being played.  That you flounder in nets of your own making. The circumstances you struggle to master, Bird, have long ago mastered you.  Of course you thing otherwise.  Like men, power stands high among your native desires.  But you a tool, as much as any Man of the Tusk."
It crooked its head to the side.  "How then, am I to become my own instrument?"
Cnaiur snorted.  "For centuries you have manipulated events from the dark, or so you claim.  Now you assume that you must do the same, that nothing has changed.  I assure you, everything has changed.  You think yourself hidden, but you are not.  Chances are he already knows you have approached me.  Chances are he already knows your ends and your resources.
Even the ancient things, Cnaiur realised, would suffer the Holy War's fate.  The Dunyain would strip them the way the People stripped the carcasses of bison.  Flesh for sustenance.  Fat for soap and fuel.  Bone for implements.  Hide for shelter and shields.  No matter how deep they ran, the ages themselves would be consumed.  The Dunyain were something new.  Perpetually new.
Like lust or hunger.
"You must abandon you old ways, Bird.  You must strike across trackless ground.  You must surrender brute circumstance to him, because in this you cannot hope to match him.  Instead you must watch.  Wait.  You must become a student of opportunity."

Bird is not impressed and shows Cnaiur visions of its sorcerous power.  Cnaiur tells it that Kellhus is learning sorcery - and he learnt to speak Scylvendi in four days.

Foreshadowing of
(click to show/hide)
?

12
The Almanac: PON Edition / ARC: TTT Chapter 8
« on: February 08, 2019, 07:53:17 pm »
Quote
That hope is little more than the premonition of regret.  This is the first lesson of history.
- CASIDAS, THE ANNALS OF CENIE

Quote
To merely recall the Apocalypse is to have survived it.  This is what makes The Sagas, for all their cramped beauty, so monstrous.  Despite their protestations, the poets who authored them do not tremble, even less do they grieve.  They celebrate.
- DRUSAS ACHAMIAN, THE COMPENDIUM OF THE FIRST HOLY WAR

13
The Almanac: PON Edition / ARC: TTT Chapter 7
« on: February 08, 2019, 07:50:19 pm »
Quote
Every woman knows there are only two kinds of men: those who feel and those who pretend.  Always remember, my dear, though only the former can be loved, only the latter can be trusted.  It is passion that blackens eyes, not calculation.
- ANONYMOUS LETTER

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It is far better to outwit Truth than to apprehend it.
- AINONI PROVERB

14
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 6
« on: February 07, 2019, 09:10:31 pm »
The Holy War travels across Enathpaneah.  They wear Fanim clothing, ride Fanim horses, drink Fanim wine, and bed Fanim women.
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They had been transformed, and in ways that struck far deeper than mere accoutrements.  The men Achamian recalled, the Inrithi who'd marched through the Southron Gates, were but the ancestors of the men he saw now.  Just as he could no longer recognise the sorceror who'd wandered into teh Sareotic Library, they could no longer recognise the warriors who'd marched singing into the Carathay Desert.  Those other men had become strangers.  They might as well have brandished weapons of bronze.
The God had culled the Men of the Tusk.  Over battlefield and desert, through famine and pestilence, He had sifted them like sand through His fingers.  Only the strongest of the most fortunate survived.  The Ainoni had a saying: breaking enemies, not bread, made brothers.  But being broken, Achamian realised, was more potent still.  Something new had arisen from the forge of their collective suffering, something hard and something sharp.  Something Kellhus had simply lifted from the anvil,
They're his, Achamian would often think, watching their grim ranks file across ridge and hillside.  All of them.  So much so that if Kellhus were to die...

Do the Ainoni have a saying for everything? ::)
Elements of foreshadowing of the Ordeal here.  Broken men forged anew, and if Kellhus dies...

Akka and Kellhus ply the skin-spies, to no avail.  They freak Akka out.
Eleazaras has taken to drink.  He is terrified.
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Against all reason, Achamian actually pitied the man, the way those of hale constitution might pity those of weak in times of sickness.  There was no accounting for i.  The temper of every man in the Holy War had been tested.  Some survived stronger.  Some survived broken.  Some survived bent.  And all of them knew who was who, and which was which.
At no time did the chanv addict, Iyokus, attend any of the meetings, nor was he mentioned - small mercies for which Achamian was thankful.  As much as he hated the man, as much as he wanted to kill him that night in the Apple Garden, he could do no more than extract a fraction of what he was owed.  When the Hundred Pillars had taken the knife to his red-irised eyes, Iyokus had suddenly seemed a hapless stranger... an innocent.  The past became smoke, and retribution an act of abominable conceit.  Who was he to pass final judgement?  Of all the acts committed by men, only murder was absolute.
Had it not been for Xinemus, Achamian doubted he would have done anything at all.

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...Sometimes, during moments of boredom, an odd sense of detachment would overcome him as he watched Kellhus.  The surreal glamour would fall away and the Warrior-Prophet would seem as frail as the warlike men about him - and far more lonely.  Achamian would go rigid with terror, understanding that Kellhus, no matter how godlike he seemed, was in fact mortal.  He was a man.  Was this not the lesson of the Circumfixion?  And if something were to happen, nothing would matter, not even his love for Esmenet.
A strange zeal would creep through his limbs then, one utterly unlike the nightmare-born fervour of the Mandate Schoolmen.  A fanaticism of person.
To be devoted to a cause alone was to possess momentum without direction or destination.  For so long, wandering had been his twilight mission, beaten forward by his dreams, leading his mule down road and track, and never, not once, arriving.  But with Kellhus all this had changed. This was what he could not explain to Nautzera: that Kellhus was the incarnation of the abstractions that gave their School purpose.  In this one man lay the abstractions that gave their School purpose. In this one man lay the future of all mankind.  He was their only bulwark against the End of Ends.
The No-God.
Several times now, Achamian thought he had glimpsed golden haloes about Kellhus' hands.  He found himself envying those, such as Proyas, who claimed to see them all the time.  And he realised that he would gladly die for Anasurimbor Kellhus.  He would begrudge no sacrifice, despite his unrequited hate.

Presumably you have to 'believe' in Kellhus to see the haloes.  Akka is the sceptic, so doesn't often see them.  Serwe is the first to see the haloes.  Proyas is a man of faith.  Kellhus sees his own haloes - believes his own bullshit?

Esmenet remains Akka's greatest distraction.
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Women were windows through which men could peer into other men.  They were the unguarded gate, the point of contact for deeper, more defenceless selves.  And there had been times, Achamian could now admit, when he feared the raucous crowd that scrutinised him through her almost guileless eyes.  All that had consoled him was the fact he was the last to bed her, would always be the last.
And now she was with Kellhus.
Why was this thought so unbearable?  Why did it cramp his heart so?
Some nights he would lie awake and remind himself, over and over, of just who it was that Esmenet had chosen.  Kellhus was the Warrior-Prophet.  Before long he would demand sacrifices of all men.  He would demand lives, not just lovers.  And if he took, then he gave as well - such gifts!  Achamian had lost Esmenet, but he had gained his soul.  Had he not?
Had he not?

'Though you lose your soul, you shall gain the world'.  The Mandate Catechism turned on its head.

Akka goes to Proyas pavillion.  Xinemus is there and so is Esmi.  She is very beautiful.  Xinemus has a heightened sense of smell.
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..."There's beauty - so much beauty - in what we see", he said with eloquence.  "But there's truth in what we smell."
Their laughter became brittle then, suddenly keen to a dangerous shift in his manner.  In a moment it trailed away altogether.
"Truth!"  Xinemus cried with savagery. "The world stinks of it!"  He made as thought o stand up, but rolled back onto his rump instead.  "I can smell all of you, " he said, as if in answer to their shocked silence.  "I can smell that Akka's afraid.  I can smell that Proyas grieves. I can smell that Esmi wants to fuck-"
"Enough"! Achamian cried. "What's this madness? Zin... who's this fool,you've become?"
The Marshall laughed, possessed of a sudden, improbable lucidity.  "I'm the same man you knew, Akka."  He shrugged in a drunk's exaggerated manner, holding his palms out.  "Just minus my eyes".

Akka gets up to leave.  He realises Proyas has made Xin his punishment.  Xin mocks both of them.

Quote
"Ah, yes, Proyas the Judge."  The Marshall leaned back into his drink and cushions.  When he continued, it was with a strange, dislocated voice - one that had discarded hope.  "So he bade Horomon," he quoted, "to offer his cheeks into his hands, saying to the others, 'This man, who has put out the eyes of his enemy, the God has struck blind.'  Then he spit once into each socket and said, 'This man, who has sinned, I have made clean.'  And Horomon cried out in wonder, for he had been sightless, and now he could see."
He quoted The Tractate, Achamian realised, the famed passage where Inri Sejenus restored the sight of a notorious Xerashi criminal.  For many Inrithi, "seeing with Horomon's eyes" was synonymous with "revelation".
Xinemus turned from Proyas to Achamian, as though from a lesser to a greater enemy.  "He cannot heal, Akka.  The Warrior-Prophet...  He cannot heal".

Can Xinemus smell Kellhus - and if so what does he smell?  Can Xin 'see' through him?

Akka tells Esmi about the Cants of Compulsion.
Quote
..."Zin lost more than his eyes in Iothiah"...
..."Souls compelled", he continued, "are souls possessed"...
..."They used him against me"...
..."The great paradox of the Compulsions is that their victims in no way feel compelled.  Zin sincerely meant everything he said to me, he chose to say them, even though others spoke the words"...
..."He said that pity was the only love I could hope for"...
...Of all the world, only she truly understood.  Of all the world.
Longing crashed about the pilings of his resolution - to crush her in his arms, to press her back tenderly then kiss the faint saddle of freckles across her nose...
..."H-he said things," Achamian continued, coughing against a voice-cracking ache.  "He said things without hope of forgiveness.  Now he can't bring himself to stop."...
...Blinking, Achamian looked to the sky, saw the Round of Horns glittering in an arc over the northern hills.  It was an ancient Kuniuric constellation, unknown to the astrologers of the Three Seas.  "Think of the soul as a network of innumerable rivers.  With the Cants of Compulsion, the old banks are swamped, dikes are washed away, new channels are cut... Sometimes when the floodwaters recede, things resume their old course.  Sometimes they don't".

They kiss.  Akka asks if she loves him.  She tells him Kellhus 'knows' her like no other.  But he knows everyone.  But he loves her.

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how could one loves one's oppressor?  Achamian didn't know, but he loved nonetheless.  He loved them both.

Akka teaches Kellhus the Gnosis.  He learns Gilcunya, the Nonman tongue in less than two weeks.
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To say that Achamian was astonished or even appalled would be to name a confluence of passions that could not be named...

He moves onto philosophy.  Sorcery depends upon meanings, which depend upon systematic comprehension. The same words mean different things to different people, or in different circumstances.  The example given is love.
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"Preserving and expressing the pure modalities of meaning," he continued, "this id the heart of all sorcery, Kellhus.  With each word, you must strike the perfect semantic pitch, the note that will drown out the chorus of reality"...
..."The sheer otherness of Gilcunya serves to insulate the semantics of sorcery from the inconsistencies of our lives"...
"To speaks as the Gods do," Kelhhus said.  "Far from the concerns of Men."

Cants require two meanings, utteral and inutteral.
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"So the inutterals serve to fix the utterals," Kellhus said, "the way the words of one man might secure the words of another".
"Precisely,"  Achamian replied.  "One must think and say two different things at once.  This is the greatest challenge - even more so than then the mnemonics.  The things that requires the most practice to master."

Kellhus asks about whether anyone has ever used two inutterals. There is a myth that Su'juroit the nonman Witch King did this - but Akka doesn't tell Kellhus.

When Akka comes to teach Kellhus a Cant, he cannot speak.  Seswatha is protect the Gnosis.  Kellhus ask to speak with Seswatha - he appears to hypnotise Akka.  Akka remembers speaking, but recollects none of the words.  Then he teaches Kellhus the words.
It took Akka seven months to master the utterals and inutterals.  Kellhus does it first time, in bold letters.  His eyes glow
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...Like coals beneath the bellows.
Terror clawed the breath from his lungs, the blood from his limbs.  If a fool such as him could bring down ramparts of stone with such words, what could this man do?
What were his limits?...
...And at last Achamian realised...
I have not the concepts to comprehend him
.


15
The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: ARC: TTT Chapter 5
« on: February 03, 2019, 05:20:38 pm »
Conphas is slightly confused
Quote
Strange, this feeling.  Curiously childlike, though when he racked his soul, Ikurei Conphas could find no resembling childhood memory. It was as though he'd been bruised beneath the skin, on his heart, or even his soul.  A strange sense of fragility dogged his every look, his every word.  He no longer trusted his face... It was as though certain muscles had been removed.
"For some it a defect carried from the womb"

The Nansur troops are disarmed.  Some defect and rejoin the Holy War.  More than four in five remain loyal to the Lion of Kiyuth.
Quote
Conphas raised his forearm in Imperial salute, and his men raised theirs in thundering reply.  Tears clouded his eyes.  The bruise of his indignities began to fade, especially when he heard Proyas declare the terms extended by the Warrior-Prophet.
A fleet is coming from Momemn to pick up the Nansur - they don't have to cross the desert.

Conphas questions his staff.
Quote
"Tell me, what man doesn't aspire to godhead"
The consensus was, not surprisingly, absolute.  All men they said, sought to emulate the Gods, though only the most bold, the most honest, dared voice their ambitions. Of course, the fools simply mouthed what they thought he wanted to hear.  Ordinarily this would have incensed Conphas - no command could tolerate sycophants - but his uncertainty made him curiously indulgent.  After all, according to the so-called Warrior-Prophet, his was a marred soul, a deformation born of the womb.  The famed Ikurei Conphas was not quite human.
The strange thing was that he understood full well what the man had meant. His entire life, Conphas had known he was different.  He never stammered in embarrassment.  He never blushed in the presence of his betters.  He never minced his words with his worries.  All around him, men jerked this way and that, pulled by hooks that he knew only by reputation: love, guilt, duty... Though he understood how to use these words well enough, they meant nothing to him.
And the strangest thing of all that he didn't care.
Listening to his officers oblige his vanity, Conphas came to a powerful realisation: his beliefs mattered nothing, so long as they delivered what he wanted. Why make logic the rule.  Why make fact the ground?  The only consistency that mattered, the only correspondence, was that between belief and desire.  If it pleased him to think himself divine, then so he would think.  And Conphas understood that just as he possessed the remarkable ability to do anything, no matter how merciful or bloodthirsty, he also possessed the ability to believe anything.  The Warrior-Prophet could hang the ground vertical, make all things fall towards the horizon, and Conphas need only point sideways to restore the order of up and down.
Perhaps the sorceror's tales of the Consult and the Second Apocalypse were true.  Perhaps the Prince of Atrithau was some kind of saviour. Perhaps his was deformed.  It simply did not matter if he did not care.  So told himself that his life was his witness, that ages had passed without producing a soul such as his, that the Whore of Fate lusted for him and him alone...
...  He told himself that the Prince of Atrithau was the most accomplished liar he'd ever encountered - a veritable Ajokli!  He told himself that the Council had been a trap, the product of through and painstaking premeditation.
So he told himself and so he believed.  For Conphas, there was no difference between decision and revelation, manufacture and discovery.  Gods made themselves the rule.  And he was one of them.

So much of this seems to reflect Kellhus' story path.  I still think Conphas is a device to help us see what Kellhus actually is.  Also note the direct reference to Kellhus and Ajokli.

He arrives in Joktha quite happily - and then sees Cnaiur.

Cnaiur is 'forgetting something'.  He is seeing things.  Dead Utemot, horses and cattle, and Moenghus.
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...The Ikurei still lives... Why don't you kill him?...
..."Because he wants me to"
The Dnyain?  You think this is a trap?
"His every word is a feint.  His every look a spear!"
Then what's his intent?
"To keep me from his father.  To deny me my hate.  To betray-"
But all you need to do is kill the Ikurei.  Kill him, and you are free to follow the Holy War.
"No!  There is something!  Something I'm..."
You're a fool

The Synthese turns up and tells him to avenge the Battle of Kiyuth.

Cnaiur tries to work out what is going on.  He has a small number of troops with him, heavily outnumbered by the Nansur.  He needs to break the will of the Nansur.  He realises that if Kellhus wants him to assassinate Conphas,the Kellhus is thinking past Shimeh and past Moenghus.

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Men draped assumptions, endless assumptions, about their acts; they could scarce do otherwise, given their errant hunger for meaning.  Since the beginning, Cnaiur had conceived their journey as a hunt, as  collusion of enemies in pursuit of a greater foe.  Their quest had always seemed an arrow fired into darkness.  No matter how deep his misgivings, he had always come back to this understanding.  But now... Now it seemed like nothing other than a collar; that Moenghus and Kellhus, father and son, were but different ends of a mighty torc that he, Cnaiur urs Skiotha, had bent about the very neck of the world.  A slaver's collar.

He beats Conphas for answering him back.  He beats the other Nansur who intervene.  He salts the hidden sorceror amongst them.
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Afterwards, he found himself screaming in his apartments.  He understood why, of course: if not for the Scarlet Schoolman's arrival, he would never have thought that Conphas too had a sorceror.  But the why of this understanding escaped him... It always escaped him
Was something wrong with him?
Enemies!  All about him, enemies! They even dwelt within...
Even Proyas... Could he bring himself to break his neck as well?
He sent me to murder myself
At night, Cnaiur drank - heavily - and the spears that lay hidden beneath every surface were blunted.  The terrors, rather, oozed from the cracks in the floor.  Despite the censers, the air smelled of yaksh: earth, smoke and mouldering hides.  He could hear Moenghus whisper through the dim interiors...
More lies.  More confusions.
And the bird - the fucking bird!  It seemed a knot, a yanking of all thins foul into a single form.  His chest tightened simply thinking of it.  But of course it couldn't be real.  No more than Serwe.
He told her as much, every night she came to his bed.
Something... something is wrong with me
He knew this because he could see himself as the Dunyain saw him.  He understood that Moenghus had knocked him from the tracks of his People, that he had spent thirty years kicking through the grasses searching for a spoor of his own passing.  For a way back.
Thirty accursed years!  These too he understood.  The Scylvendi were a forward people - as were all people save the Dunyain. They listened to their storytellers.  They listened to their hearts.  Like dogs, they barked at strangers.  They judged honour and shame the way they judged near and far.  In their inborn conceit, they made themselves the absolute measure.  They could not see that honour, like nearness, simply depended on where one stood.
That it was a lie.
Moenghus had lured him onto different ground.  How could his kinsmen not think him an obscenity when his voice came to them from darknesses unseen?  How could he rediscover their tracks when all grounds had trampled?  He could never be of the People, not after Moenghus.
He could never think or curse himself back to their savage innocence.  He had been a fool to try... Ignorance was ever the iron of certainty, for it was as blind to itself as sleep.  It was the absence of questions that made answers absolute - not knowledge!  To ask, this was what Moenghus had taught him.  Simply to ask...
"Why follow this track and not another?"
"Because the Voice demands it".
"Why follow this voice and not another?"
That everything could be overthrown so easily. That all custom and conviction could lay so close to the brink.  That outrage and accusation could be the only true foundations...  All of it - everything, that was man - perched and swords and screams.
Why? cried his every step.  Why? cried his every word.  Why? cried his every breath.
For some reason... There must be some reason.
But why?  Why?
The world itself had become his rebuke!  He was no longer of the Land, but he could not beat the Steppe from the cant of his limbs.  He was no longer of the People, but he could not wash his father from his blood.  He cared nothing for the ways of the Scylvendi! - nothing - yet still they howled within him, railed and railed.  He was not of the People!  Yet still his degradations choked him.  Still his longings clawed at his heart.  Wutrim!  Shame!
Absent things!  How could absent things remain!
Each time he shaved, his thumb unerringly found the swazond puckered about his throat.  He would track its ginger course.  Something... I'm forgetting something...
There were two past; Cnaiur understood that now.  There was the past that men remembered, and there was the past that determined, and rarely if ever were the same.  All men stood in thrall of the latter.
And knowing this made them insane.

Conphas has snuck out of Joktha.
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If only he could forget the accursed Scylvendi!  What was it about the man?  Even now, in some small corner of his soul, a beacon fire burned at the ready in case of his return.  It was as though the barbarian had somehow stained him with the force of his presence, and now it clung, like an odour that must be scrubbed rather than rinsed away.  Never had any man possessed such an effect on him.
Perhaps this, Conphas mused, was what sin felt like for the faithful.  The intimation of something greater watching.  The sense of disapproval, at once immense and ineffable, as near as fog and yet as distant as the world's rim.  It was a though anger itself possessed eyes.
Perhaps faith was a kind of stain as well... a kind of odour.

He meets the Fanim - a meeting he has arranged long before.  Fanayal acclaims him as Emperor.

Cnaiur is speaking with the Synthese.
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So what was this thing?  He had struck bargains with it.  Exchanged promises.
  What bargains and promises?

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"I eclipse you, mortal!" it replied with bird-vehemence.  "I am son of a more violent race.  You cannot conceive the compass of my life!"
Cnaiur turned his profile to it, glanced at it sidelong.  "Why?  The blood that pulses through my veins is no less ancient.  Nor are the movements of my soul.  You are not so old as the Truth".
He could fairly hear the creature's sneer.
"You still do not understand them," Cnaiur continued.  "Before all, the Dunyain are intellect.  I do not know their ends, but I do know this: they make instruments of all things, and they do so with a way beyond the ken of me or even you, Demon".
"You think I underestimate them".
Cnaiur turned his back to the sea.  "It is inevitable," he said, shrugging.  "we are little more than children to them, imbeciles drawn from the womb. Think on it. Bird.  Moenghus has dwelt among the Kianene for thirty years.  I know not your power, but I do know this: he lies far beyond it."
Moenghus... Simply speaking the name cramped his heart.
"As you say, Scylvendi, you know not my power."
Cnaoir cursed and laughed.  "Would you like to know what a Dunyain would hear in your words?"
"And what might that be?"
"Posturing.  Vanity.  Weaknesses that betray you measure and offer innumerable lines of assault.  A Dunyain would grant you your declarations.  He would encourage you in your confidence.  In all things, he would dispense flattering appearances.  He would care nothing whether you thought him your lesser, your slave, so long as you remained ignorant"...
..."Ignorant?  Ignorant of what?"
Cnaiur spat.  "Your true circumstances."
"And what are my true circumstances, Scylvendi?"
"That you are  being played.  That you flounder in nets of your own making. The circumstances you struggle to master, Bird, have long ago mastered you.  Of course you thing otherwise.  Like men, power stands high among your native desires.  But you a tool, as much as any Man of the Tusk."
It crooked its head to the side.  "How then, am I to become my own instrument?"
Cnaiur snorted.  "For centuries you have manipulated events from the dark, or so you claim.  Now you assume that you must do the same, that nothing has changed.  I assure you, everything has changed.  You think yourself hidden, but you are not.  Chances are he already knows you have approached me.  Chances are he already knows your ends and your resources.
Even the ancient things, Cnaiur realised, would suffer the Holy War's fate.  The Dunyain would strip them the way the People stripped the carcasses of bison.  Flesh for sustenance.  Fat for soap and fuel.  Bone for implements.  Hide for shelter and shields.  No matter how deep they ran, the ages themselves would be consumed.  The Dunyain was something new.  Perpetually new.
Like lust or hunger.
"You must abandon you old ways, Bird.  You must strike across trackless ground.  You must surrender brute circumstance to him, because in this you cannot hope to match him.  Instead you must watch.  Wait.  You must become a student of opportunity."

Bird is not impressed and shows Cnaiur visions of its sorcerous power.  Cnaiur tells it that Kellhus is learning sorcery - and he learnt to speak Scylvendi in four days.

Cememketri is snuck in to meet Conphas.  The Saik are waiting to be 'wielded'.



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